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The pictures you don't want to see?

Sensationalism sells everything (even Marxism)--that seems to be the thinking behind your bad-taste coverage of the conflict in former Yugoslavia (March).

The caption proclaimed 'The pictures they don't want you to see'. Photographs of human heads severed at the neck are the kind of pictures which no one in their right mind wants to see. But in your quest for sensationalism you are quite happy to print such images on the front cover of your magazine. Imagine the traumatic effect it could have on the mind of a young child.

Talk of 'breaking the ban' and challenging censorship is just an excuse. It may well be the case that there are innocent civilian victims on all sides of the conflict. But Living Marxism clearly has no empathy with the sufferings of any of the victims, whatever side they are on or whichever ethnic group they may be part of.

As far as I'm concerned, it's not a problem when someone like Malcolm McLaren tries to manipulate the music media - after all, it's only rock'n'roll. But you are dealing in matters of life and death, and issues of such magnitude should not become the playthings of editors in search of a 'sexy' story to make their reputation.

After reading your March issue, I can only conclude that, if Living Marxism is a progressive publication for daring to publish gross pictures, then so is the Sunday Sport.

Charlie Cross Nuneaton
I want to offer my praise to Living Marxism for daring to expose the Western media cover-up of the atrocities against the Serbs. The uncomfortable truth for those of us on the political right is that only the far left is eager to know the full story of this brutal war. Sadder still to think that Living Marxism's courage may result in a large fine or worse, while worthless journalistic accolades are heaped on trendy New World Order moralists competing for prime-time television in Sarajevo.

Steven Vujacic Peckham, London

Amnesty's neutrality

With reference to Amnesty's stance on Bosnia which has taken up column inches in Living Marxism recently. I always find their insistence on their being a neutral organisation hard to bear when I recall their posture during the Malvinas War of 1982.

I was at that time a member of Amnesty International but withdrew my membership when they refused to take up Argentinian cases so that their 'neutrality would not be compromised'.

Apparently, so-called 'neutrality' leads to situations where the prisoners of 'enemy' nations have to suffer in silence whilst imperialist nations go to war.

Gareth Clumo Eltham, London

Socialists and Serbs

Tom Carter's letter (March) is a prime example of everything that is wrong with conventional left-wing argument today. He starts off by attacking Living Marxism's support for 'greater Serb hegemonism'. As the March issue makes clear, 'Living Marxism takes no side in the Yugoslav conflict'. It doesn't take a BA in South-East European Regional Studies to work out that Carter is inventing positions which Living Marxism doesn't have. Just for good measure he tries to lump Mick Hume in with Sir Alfred Sherman to establish guilt by association.

Then it's time for a round of 'spot the socialist'. This is a parlour game developed in response to events in the former Soviet bloc following 1989. Instead of working out a response to the carnival of nationalist reaction and anti-communist hysteria, left wingers cast around for groups of Trotskyists to support. When none materialised, people like Carter made do with harping on about the 'socialist traditions' which have proved inadequate to an increasingly brutal situation.

Carter refuses to take the specific pressures of British politics into account, preferring instead bellicose statements of principle. In particular he seems to forget the previous two years of vicious anti-Serbian propaganda. As a result his carping ends up reinforcing the poisonous hysteria which, as Living Marxism has pointed out, has transformed the Serbs into the 'white niggers' of Europe. With socialists like that, who needs the Tory press?

G Bishop South Yorkshire

Too slack

Reading Mary McCaughey's interview with Apache Indian ('An Apache from Handsworth', February), I was struck by the uncritical and relativist use of the comments on slack lyrics.

Shabba Ranks was, to my mind, justly criticised by The Word presenter, Mark Lamarr, for his very straightforward, anti-gay comments. The interview followed a piece filmed in Jamaica with clips from Buju Banton's massively popular 'Boom bye-bye'. This song is unashamedly about shooting gays.

Homosexual scapegoats are common in a relatively affluent country such as Britain, and so I can well understand that the third world poverty of Jamaica will give rise to desperate prejudices towards 'outcast' groups. Buju Banton has adapted and articulated these prejudices as a shrewd career move to escape that poverty. Although this is understandable, it is not something which I sympathise with or condone.

I would have been happier if McCaughey had even just issued a rider to Apache's comments that the media concentration on slack lyrics reinforces the idea that the Caribbean is populated by gun-toting, gay-bashing bandits - an idea that compounds the moral high ground of Western culture; music included.

However, the interview implied, by omitting to comment, that reactionary views are valid in a repressed environment. The refusal to critically challenge the comments of Banton, the explanation by Apache (or the emphasis of Terry Christian), was an unfortunate and cowardly evasion.

Wanda Nielson Darlington

Downbeat syndrome

I accuse Mike from Essex of being Mencap's advertising copywriter (letters, February). Their latest posters, featuring a grinning Down's Syndrome kid with the legend 'We think differently about ourselves nowadays', display the same low horizons masquerading as in-yer-face PC that he uses to attack Toby Banks.

Promoting Down's Syndrome as a positive contribution to society may appear preferable to the kind of 'innocent victim' ads we are more familiar with. It also neatly avoids the demand for sufficient resources in medical science to overcome genetic abnormality. In the face of harsh economic realities it appears that what was a campaign is tightening its belt and settling back to be a mere representative body.

And this is where we end up. Postmodernist Mike thinks that people with mental impairments have the right to be different. He also asserts that there is nothing abnormal about being illiterate or unemployed. Just how low can those horizons go?

Manda Kent London

Anti-IRA ranting

I have been dismayed to see Living Marxism continually devalued by pro-IRA rantings by Mick Kennedy and, most recently, Steven Hepburn (letters, March 1993). I would like an opportunity (as a nationalist Irishman) to point out the general inaccuracy of the views aired on Ireland in Living Marxism.

There is not a war ongoing in Ireland. The IRA/UVF are big businesses, especially since they met to carve up territory for racketeering and drug-trafficking (despite public announcements condemning drug dealers).

The IRA do not strike solely at 'legitimate' targets such as army units, RUC stations et al, but tend to indiscriminately plant bombs which often kill 'their own people'. They have destroyed countless numbers of Catholic-owned businesses, killed fathers in front of their families, pensioners at a Remembrance Day parade, soldiers at a charity fun run, as well as terrorising 'their own people' with their unique brand of justice (steal a car - get your legs blown off; offend an IRA man - get accused of 'anti-social behaviour' and be given 24 hours notice to leave Ireland).

Finally, despite the numerous atrocities carried out by the British state, the IRA are not seen as saviours of 'the people'. Like the UVF, they represent a tiny minority of an Irish nation sickened by continuous bloodshed and the killing of innocents. The Catholic clergy, SDLP, Irish government and people (Sinn Fein have no MPs and poll very poorly) all reject the IRA. Yet Living Marxism, sitting cosily in London, informs its readership that the IRA are not to blame for the carnage...which is justified!

Northern Ireland is no longer a state under Unionist hegemony; the Tory Northern Ireland Office calls the shots now (ask any local MP). Protestants and Catholics both are fed up with being snubbed by the English Tories - as are the Scottish, Welsh and Northern English. In the heartfelt words of U2's Bono: No More.

Dave Burrowes Scotland
The letters in reply to Mick Kennedy's article and the article itself ('Bomb warnings', December 1992) inadvertently highlighted the one major weakness of militant republicanism.

When the wish for 'the British to leave Ireland permanently' was expressed, this in essence was asking the 900 000-odd Protestants in the North to pack their suitcases and leave as well. Which it must be assumed is also the desire behind the phrase 'Brits out'.

When England moved en masse hundreds of thousands of Scottish Presbyterian planters from the Scots lowlands to the north of Ireland during colonisation, they were in effect, as Seamus Heaney echoes, creating a mini-Britain in Ireland, for good. So a withdrawal of troops will not lead to the 'de-Britishing' of the Six Counties (even though it's a beginning). I'm afraid it is deeply embedded in Protestant culture and is only reinforced by the actions of the IRA.

Until the author of the article et al recognise that the Protestants' 'Britishness' needs to be considered and not simply ignored (possibly in terms of dual citizenship on an Andorran model), then they are only fooling themselves.

Armchair politicians who suggest cosy, miracle-cure united Irelands, without considering the Protestants and the deeper cultural/nationality issues, have little usefulness in the debate on the nationality crisis of all Northern Ireland's people.

Thomas Gibson Sunderland

Modernists and Marxists

As the thrust of modern criticism, and especially Marxist criticism, has been to study texts, I am surprised that the views recently expressed in your pages have gone along with accepting the Tory concept of a modernist intellectual elite and its accompanying agenda.

We can now see how so many of the modernists' theories were not to prove the foundations for new understandings - often they realised this themselves. But two things remain: first, many works produced in this climate do have a passionate creative force and social value; secondly, we can derive hope from seeing how the bonds of social control can be breached. While regretting their failures in not being good Marxists, we should not write off their significance and their aesthetic achievements.

Denis Bridge Weymouth

Cheek to speak

In his December 1992 editorial on the increasing threat to jobs and wages, Mick Hume asks the reader 'so what are you going to do about it?'.

What is he going to do about it? Go out and sell a few magazines? Cheeky bastard!

Paul Williams Kennington, London

The Malcolm X factor

Emmanuel Oliver ('Resurrection of Malcolm X', March) may be right to criticise those making a mint from manipulating and merchandising the memory of Malcolm X. Selling baseball caps will not make a revolution; only a mockery of Malcolm's real legacy.

But whatever these people do, it does not diminish Malcolm himself. Every young Afro-American needs to know the significance of Malcolm X and the truth about his contribution to our culture. This is equally true for the youth in Britain. At a time when neither Hollywood nor the rappers can provide powerful or satisfactory role models, we need the example of Malcolm X and we have a right to know about him.

Or perhaps Oliver thinks that our youth would be better off imitating Mike Tyson?

PJ Coles Los Angeles, USA
Before I saw the film, I thought Emmanuel Oliver was probably right to puncture the rhetoric and the hype surrounding Spike Lee's Malcolm X. Now that I have seen it, I feel that Oliver was wrong on at least one count. He forgot to mention that this is one lousy movie.

Rick Lamberton Birmingham

Tokyo calling

The Tokyo Living Marxism readers' group is being reconvened. Those wanting to take part should contact Lynn Robson on Tokyo 03-5388-6828.
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 54, April 1993



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